Harry Sunderland Trophy winner Kevin Naiqama admits that he could change his plans to go into retirement on his return to Australia if he gets an offer from an NRL club.
Naiqama, who emulated Rob Burrow (2011) and Danny McGuire (2017) by winning a unanimous vote from the media who decided which player wold win the award as the man of the match in Saturday’s Grand Final.
“No I haven’t changed my mind on going home,” said Naiqama, the 32-year-old Fiji captain.
“It’s a hard decision that me and my wife weighed up for a couple of months, it wasn’t an easy decision as I’ve enjoyed my time here at St Helens.”
But when asked whether he would continue playing on for another year in Australia, he didn’t rule out the possibility.
“I don’t know what to say to that,” he said.
“I guess if someone called I wouldn’t say no straight away. I spoke with Woolfy and he knows the biggest decision to go home has nothing to do with the club, the players of the coaching staff, it’s to do with my family.
“So if someone did call, I wouldn’t say no, I’d definitely explore it and maybe have a big conversation.
“But as it stands I’ve got no club and that’s why it’s probably led to me retiring after this game. I just really want to enjoy this moment and be present in this moment because of what we’ve enjoyed together, as a team and as a whole.
“It’s really hard to process and I think that it’s important we enjoy this together, these next few days, because they don’t come often. I’ve been playing 13 or 14 years professionally and I’ve never experienced anything like this, this group of players, the coaching staff, the fans, they’ve been sensational.”
Naiqama was presented with the Harry Sunderland Trophy by Rob Burrow and he spoke to Burrow movingly with words that were captured on Sky Sports.
“It’s really hard to process or put into words what my feelings were, as he’s someone I watched from Australia. His name was big here in the Super League but also in Australia.
“He’s a little player, but man he caused some damage. You can go on YouTube and see so many highlight reels of the things that he did on the field. He was such a special player and I’m just glad I could receive that award from him and his family. And I’m just grateful to have met him, that’s the first time I’ve met him as well.”
And Naiqama admitted that he didn’t immediately realise that he has become the first Fijian player to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy.
“I didn’t know I was and it’s an honour to win that award,” he said.
“But even bigger than that was to receive it from Rob Burrow himself. It was an honour and a privilege to receive that award from him and his family, and I was so grateful to meet him and his family as well.
“Being the first Fijian player – I’m a proud Fijian so to accomplish something like that I didn’t even know. But it’s hard because I’m not one that appreciates all the accolades because I just want to be a team player. I want to do my job for the team and all that mattered was winning. I’m so grateful for receiving that award and being the first Fijian, but I’m just so grateful for the win and being part of these boys and what we’ve accomplished, not only this year but over the last three years.”
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